The Tucson Roadrunners closed their first home weekend of 2019 with a 3-2 win over the Chicago Wolves, AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights, on Saturday.
The win marks the 20th win for Tucson at the halfway point (34 games) into their 2018-2019 season. This point is usually a good time to assess the team’s performance and Roadrunners coach Jay Varady delivered his thoughts after Saturday’s win.
“You know, I think we’ve been able to survive,” Varady said, “We’ve had lots of things happen: injuries, call-ups, and things of that nature. We just keep fighting away. That’s a little bit of our identity: we just keep clawing our way through whatever’s coming at us and we have a very good attitude about it.”
Saturday’s win was much different type of game than Friday’s 6-3 loss; There was no need for a steep comeback attempt. Instead, the game moved back and forth with near even shot-counts.
The first period showed exactly what the pace of the game would feel like. Tomas Hyka, who scored a hat trick in Friday’s game, drew the first blood for Chicago just 12:39 into the period. That would be quickly answered by Roadrunners forward Domenic Alberga, for his first AHL goal.
“It felt amazing,” Alberga said after the game. “It was a great play by (Capobianco) and Fiore, I just drove it up pretty hard and Fiore put it on my stick and it just went five-hole. It was good to get the monkey of the back in the first one, so I’m happy.”
Tucson and Chicago would battle for possession throughout the next half a game, and it showed on the scoreboard. The next point wasn’t scored until Chicago’s Brooks Macek slid the puck past Calvin Pickard (conditioning assignment) in the latter half of the second period.
Heading into the final period, the Roadrunners had to come from behind once more. They wanted to come and prove a point to the team that near embarrassed just the other night. So the team left it up to Michael Bunting — who had just returned from his NHL call-up — to set the tone.
“I like to play on the edge and I felt like that was my game to get it going,” Bunting said. “I drew the first penalty and actually the next two, so I was getting under their skin. The more they’re worried about me, the more they’re off the game.”
Bunting’s plan to get under Chicago’s skin worked. Stefan Matteau was called for a couple roughing penalties, while Zach Whitecloud took a late tripping penalty. It was definitely a penalty plagued third period, but it worked in Tucson’s favor.
At about 11:20 into the period, Adam Helewka set the game back into a tie with a power play goal. From that point on, Chicago seemed more off their game than before. That granted Helewka to score another one just over three minutes later, ultimately giving Tucson the 3-2 win over the Wolves.
Tucson will hit the road next week to Loveland, Colorado, where they’ll faceoff against new divisional rivals, the Colorado Eagles.